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Current Topic: Civil Liberties

TSA credits bloggers with ending new electronics policy.
Topic: Civil Liberties 12:38 pm EST, Feb  7, 2008

MemeStreams users seemed concerned about a new and apparently randomly enforced TSA policy. It appears that the TSA is listening.

A Win for the Blogesphere

Posters on this blog have had their first official impact on our operations. That’s right, less than one week since we began the blog and already you’re affecting security in a very positive way.

On Monday afternoon we began receiving questions about airports that were requiring ALL electronics to be removed from carry-on bags (everything, including blackberrys, iPods and even cords). This practice was also mentioned on several other blogs and left us scratching our heads.

So…we checked with our security operations team to figure out what was going on. After some calls to our airports, we learned that this exercise was set up by local TSA offices and was not part of any grand plan across the country. These practices were stopped on Monday afternoon and blackberrys, cords and iPods began to flow through checkpoints like the booze was flowing on Bourbon Street Tuesday night. (Fat Tuesday of course).

The way this post was written reminds me of a t-shirt that I really wish I had purchased while it was still available. At least they are paying attention.

TSA credits bloggers with ending new electronics policy.

MAKE: Blog: LED art all over Boston today
Topic: Civil Liberties 5:43 pm EST, Jan 31, 2008

This is interesting - it seems that a group of artists have celebrated 1-31-07 in their own way and have created a series of political themed LED art sculptures and (you guessed it) placed them all over Boston. Pictured here, Bush & Bin Laden... Click on through to see more images and if you're in Boston the locations are listed to go on an art tour. Get there before the robots do.

MAKE: Blog: LED art all over Boston today

Evolution of Security
Topic: Civil Liberties 5:17 pm EST, Jan 31, 2008

The TSA has a blog! The comments are, of course, where the action is. And of course, the very first commenter is a TSA employee who smack talks the attitudes of passengers.

As a TSA SCreening Manager I want to welcome all those who are viisting this site! I believe it will be a positive force for bridging the gap between the public (which for the most part seems to have forgotten about 9/11) and the TSA which is reminded of it every day.

Another doesn't seem to understand that people have a constitutional right to travel.

As a LTSO I have very proud to work for TSA. I understand that some of the passengers do not like taking off their shoes or surrendering their toothpaste, however, there are many passengers that thank us for what we do. We must all remember that 9/11 happened and we are just trying to make the air safe for everyone. Flying is not a right granted under the Bill of Rights and due to the state of the world today, we must all make smart decisions. I am proud of what we do and what we represent. Thank you Mr. Hawley!!

And of course there are those who put their best foot forward for the authoritarians at the airport, being friendly intentionally to avoid getting hasselled:

I travel quite frquently and follow the rules, take of my shoes etc.. I do it with a smile. I say hello and I thank them....

Just a frequent traveler, my smile gets me far!

All of this says a lot about our society. In my opinion, its going to take more than a blog to improve the public's image of the TSA...

Evolution of Security

It always irks me...
Topic: Civil Liberties 4:15 pm EST, Jan 19, 2008

...that there is one word for "civil liberties" and another word for "civil rights".

Aren't they really the same thing? In a way, the present usage makes the former sound somehow less important...

Is a TSA SPOT interview a "Terry Stop"
Topic: Civil Liberties 3:27 pm EST, Jan  3, 2008

If a TSA agent stops you in an airport and starts asking questions, are you free to leave? What happens if you refuse to answer? Doesn't the 4th amendment require reasonable suspicion before a government agent can seize a citizen. I'll offer at least even odds that this SPOT program won't survive judicial scrutiny as is. This post links an interesting discussion of this question.

So, I wonder if a period of questioning by a SPOT guy (especially the MA State Cops in BOS) could be construed as a Terry Stop? Is someone's perceived behavior good enough to provide "reasonable suspicion that criminal activities is a foot [sic]."? I've read other stuff defining that there has to be a context for the "reasonable suspicion" and that a police officer has to be able to reasonable articulate why he or she concluded that a crime was about to be committed...

From this case, here is a pretty interesting argument against the SPOT program and the accusations of it being a "dragnet" for all sorts of thing unrelated to aviation security:

Is a TSA SPOT interview a "Terry Stop"

FBI Puts Antiwar Protesters on Criminal Database; Canada Uses It To Ban Protesters From Entry
Topic: Civil Liberties 11:25 am EDT, Oct 30, 2007

Two well-respected US peace activists, CODEPINK and Global Exchange cofounder Medea Benjamin and retired Colonel and diplomat Ann Wright, were denied entry into Canada On October third. The two women were headed to Toronto to discuss peace and security issues at the invitation of the Toronto Stop the War Coalition. At the Buffalo-Niagara Falls Bridge they were detained, questioned and denied entry.

Database sharing between the U.S. and Canada begins to have political implications, as acts of civil disobedience can now make you unable to cross the border.

FBI Puts Antiwar Protesters on Criminal Database; Canada Uses It To Ban Protesters From Entry

The Volokh Conspiracy - My Analysis of the Oregon FISA Decision:
Topic: Civil Liberties 1:02 pm EDT, Sep 27, 2007

Orin Kerr's take:

I should say that as a matter of policy, I think the Patriot Act amendment to FISA is a good idea. If the government can establish probable cause to believe someone is a terrorist or a spy possessing foreign intelligence information, that should be enough to monitor them; allowing the government to then use the evidence to prosecute the terrorist or spy in a criminal case seems sensible to me...

Nor am I particularly persuaded that this is "watering down" the traditional Fourth Amendment warrant process. First, the government still needs to establish probable cause to a federal judge that someone is a terrorist or a spy with foreign intelligence information; that's not exactly a low standard, as the FISCR properly recognized. It seems unlikely to me that the government would seek to circumvent the traditional Fourth Amendment standard of pc that a person committed a crime (however minor) simply by establishing pc that a person was a terrorist or a spy; if that's an easier threshold to meet, it's not clear to me why.

That seems quite logical actually.

The Volokh Conspiracy - My Analysis of the Oregon FISA Decision:

Setting ourselves up for more 9/11s. - By Stewart Baker - Slate Magazine
Topic: Civil Liberties 12:27 pm EDT, Sep 27, 2007

We couldn't find al-Mihdhar and al-Hazmi in August 2001 because we had imposed too many rules designed to protect against privacy abuses that were mainly theoretical. We missed our best chance to save the lives of 3,000 Americans because we spent more effort and imagination guarding against these theoretical privacy abuses than against terrorism.

I feel some responsibility for sending the government down that road.

This is an interesting discussion of the line between intelligence gathering and law enforcement that hasn't been recommended here before. I have some thoughts about this that perhaps I'll discuss at phreaknic.

Setting ourselves up for more 9/11s. - By Stewart Baker - Slate Magazine

Balkinization: On the Patriot Act case...
Topic: Civil Liberties 12:25 pm EDT, Sep 27, 2007

I'm actually quoting a quote:

By shifting the required certification from "the purpose" to "a significant purpose," . . . [the PATRIOT Act] necessarily reopens the seemingly settled question of FISA's constitutionality under the Fourth Amendment. First, to the extent that courts have recognized a foreign intelligence exception to the Fourth Amendment's warrant requirement, the question is whether that exception should apply where the gathering of foreign intelligence information is not the main purpose of the surveillance or search.

Apparently the government conceeded the point I raised earlier about the "primary purpose" of this investigation. Perhaps they did so intentionally to bring this question to litigation in a context where the specific outcome has limited relevance because the suspect is innocent.

Balkinization: On the Patriot Act case...

Patriot Act provision struck
Topic: Civil Liberties 8:50 am EDT, Sep 27, 2007

The practical result of this amendment, objected to by plaintiffs, is that in criminal investigations, the government can now avoid the Fourth Amendment's probable cause requirement when conducting surveillance or searches of a criminal suspect's home or office merely by asserting a desire to also gather foreign intelligence information...

In place of the Fourth Amendment, the people are expected to defer to the Executive Branch and its representation that it will authorize such surveillance only when appropriate. The defendant here is asking this court to, in essence, amend the Bill of Rights, by giving it an interpretation that would deprive it of any real meaning. This court declines to do so.

This is complicated. On the one hand this is one of those provisions of the Patriot Act which I don't like, because it allows for anti-terrorism powers to be applied in cases which aren't primarily related to anti-terrorism. This passage, and others like it, are, in my view, the core problem with the Patriot Act: that it was a set of anti-terrorism powers obtained in the wake of a dramatic terrorist attack and yet many of them are designed to be used in contexts that have absolutely nothing to do with terrorism.

However, I'm not sure thats whats going on in this case. This guy was implicated (albeit incorrectly) in an international terrorism attack. It seems to me that the primary purpose of searching such a person would be national security related. I don't have time to read it... Eagerly awaiting Orin Kerr's analysis...

Patriot Act provision struck

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